This guest blog is by Melissa Essary. Melissa is a mother of two and writes a blog on her experiences with her son at Essary 4.0
My son Korban is seven years old and has autism. He's bright, funny, and very loving. He is quite verbal, although he still struggles to express himself. He has lots of sensory issues, and deals with a great deal of anxiety. He loves playing outside, visiting family and friends and SPORTS! We have taken him to many different sporting events, but he had never had the opportunity to play on a team himself until recently.
We wanted to sign him up for t-ball, but we were afraid it would be too over-stimulating and we worried that the coach and the other players and their parents might not be sensitive to his needs. But we were sad, because he loves sports so much and we all really wanted him to have the chance to play.
Our answer came from a well respected man in our community who has a heart for children with special needs. He started a Challenger sports league so that differently-abled children would have a team suited to their needs. We play baseball every Tuesday night now. It's so exciting for our whole family!
Kids from all across our area come out to play. I love seeing their smiling faces! It's a very positive and uplifting atmosphere. At our games, you won't see parents fighting or screaming at their children. Everyone cheers for all the kids, no matter which team they are on. The kids are learning about baseball from the patient instruction of their coach and the other parents who volunteer to coach bases or help out in the outfield. (Not me, I'm athletically challenged, but I sure do like watching the kids play!)
*Korban with Mr. Havis Hurley, the man who brought this great team together and gave us a place to play!*
Korban has been a real hoot to watch. He gets extremely excited when it's his turn to bat. Once he whacked his daddy with the bat instead of hitting the ball. I really wish I had gotten that on video! Don't worry, it's a soft bat. ;) When he knocks the ball off of the tee, he goes running wildly—usually in the opposite direction of first base. It's a group effort to herd him in the right direction, but he's always happy when he gets there. Oh, and he usually takes the bat with him.
Being in the outfield isn't quite as exciting for him. He generally uses that time to make sure that everyone notices how cute he is. Seriously, he calls up into the bleachers “Hey! Hey! Look! I'm doing GOOD!” It's hilarious, and everyone claps and waves to him. He really enjoys the attention, and it makes this mama's heart smile.
I love to watch the kids interact with each other. Once I witnessed one of Korban's teammates—a teenage girl with special needs—make a great catch and then hand the ball to a younger teammate so that he could tag the runner. It was precious. No one asked her to do it, it was just her gut reaction. She caught the ball and then reached out to another child to let him have a chance at the action. You don't see that kind of thing often in a “typical” sporting event.
*He's always so proud of himself--he said "I got a big hit mom!"*
Our three-year-old daughter Selah has appointed herself a cheerleader. She prances about on the sidelines singing and shouting. She loves to cheer for her brother, and sometimes she runs right out into the thick of things to be with him. She also enjoys playing with Korban's teammates and their siblings.
*Korban and Selah showing some brother and sister love with each other!*
I'm very pleased that our kids are getting a chance to be a part of something so great. They are forming relationships and learning new skills, and I'm thankful as a parent that we are getting the chance to meet new people and learn from the kids. They have a lot of awesome things to teach us!
At the end of each game, the parents form two lines and link their hands together in a tunnel for the children to run through. The kids dash through and the parents and the coach call out encouragement to them as they go. It's a beautiful thing. I look at this tunnel, and I think “These are not people that look down on my child, or merely tolerate him. These are people that CELEBRATE him!” And let's face it: These kids deserve to be celebrated.